Greg Mitchell’s writings on the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as a screening of the documentary “Countdown to Zero”, jogged my memory. In the midst of archiving 200 years of family history, I’d come upon a letter from Albert Einstein to my grandfather from December 1946, thanking him for his $10 contribution to the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, which Einstein chaired. I located the binder that contained the letter Friday night, and re-read it and the original fundraising appeal my grandfather received.
From “A Statement of Purpose by the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists”:
When the bomb fell on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, it broke a six year silence which had isolated the scientists who created the atomic bomb. Their private self-questioning could now be made public. At once they formed into groups to tell their fellow citizens the facts of atomic energy and its implications for society. The Emergency Committee of Scientists has been organized to convey this information on the large scale which has now become necessary…Others who can help are now asked to give their support. Two billion dollars were spent on the bomb. One million dollars are needed to tells its meaning to the nation at this time. The need is critical. We appeal for help.
My grandfather’s donation was acknowledged with a receipt and thank you note from Einstein:
On behalf of my colleagues of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, I send sincere thanks for your generous answer to my letter asking for your help in the great educational task we have undertaken. We value not only the practical support you have sent, but also the good will towards this work and the hope for a reasonable solution of this immense problem which your contribution expresses.
I was personally unaware the detonations sparked an immediate movement of American citizens across the Country united in their vow: Never again.
They (scientists) knew that the democratic determination of this nation’s policy on atomic energy must ultimately rest on understanding by its citizens. “America’s decision will not be made over a table in the United Nations. Our representatives in New York, in Paris, or in Moscow depend ultimately on decisions made in the village square. To the village square we must carry the facts of atomic energy. From there must come America’s voice.”*+
*Albert Einstein, New York Time Magazine, June 23, 1946
+”A Statement of Purpose by the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists”
So far we’ve managed the “never again” part, but the odds are grim, and the need for citizens to revivify the village square into a true bully pulpit is more urgent than ever. The community we’ve built at Firedoglake and across the Internet is blazing the way, but sometimes we (Okay, me) blow off the basics as having no effect.
At a Netroots Nation panel, Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02) was asked how many phone calls a day his D.C. office receives. He said apart from hot button times, he averages 20 calls a day. I wasn’t alone in showing surprise at the low number. He went on to say that throughout the day he overhears his staffers’ conversations with constituents, and will sometimes jump on the line to join in.
I’d hit a wall this summer, overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the problems facing this country, and the world at large. While still contributing financially where I could, I’d pretty much given up on writing letters or making calls to my reps. Rep. Polis’ words were a kick in the butt, a reminder that if I silence my own voice I’m allowing another to fill the void.
My voice counts. Our voice together counts more.
64 years after Einstein’s letter to my grandfather we haven’t yet blown up the world, and the education continues. The conversations continue. To continuing to raise the volume!
Einstein’s closing quote, amended:
“The democratic determination of this nation’s policies must ultimately rest on understanding by its citizens. Our representatives depend ultimately on decisions made in the village square. To the village square we must carry the facts. From there must come America’s voice.”